OSHA’s Heat Awareness Campaign
June 24, 2018
Drink Water, Rest Up and Avoid the Sun
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) first launched its campaign “Water. Rest. Shade.” in 2011. In order to increase worker safety and lower the number of preventable heat-related illnesses and deaths, the annual campaign advocates for outreach events, educational sessions and training sessions specifically aimed at employers.
According to OSHA’s data, more than 40% of the fatalities that result from heat-related illnesses happen in the construction industry. Although the construction industry is particularly dangerous, men and women across all industries can fall victim to an array of heat-related injuries and illnesses, including heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion as well as heat stroke. OSHA notes that jobs conducted outside and in direct sunlight, like asbestos removal, oil and gas well operations, farm work, landscaping, hazardous waste site activities and emergency response operations also increase the risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths in workers.
Employers and employees should pay attention to the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Some cause minor discomfort, while others can be deadly. Because of these dangers, it is important that medical treatment is given promptly. Common symptoms from heat cramps include pain and muscle spasms usually in the arms, abdomen or legs. If a person has heat rash, he or she may develop clusters of red bumps on their skin. Heat exhaustion is often accompanied by thirst, rapid heartbeat, nausea or vomiting, headache, weakness, heavy sweating and cool or moist skin. In the case of heat stroke – the most deadly type of heat-related illness –someone should call 9-1-1 immediately. The symptoms can include seizures, fainting, confusion, very high body temperature and excessive sweating or hot, red and dry skin.
There are federal safety standards in place to protect workers from heat-related illnesses and death. According to OSHA, employers are legally responsible for providing workplaces free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees. Protecting workers from extreme heat is part of that responsibility. Heat illnesses cause the deaths of dozens of workers each year, as well as thousands of illnesses. These deaths and injuries are preventable, but employers must fulfill their legal obligation to protect employees from heat exposure and other related illnesses.
When an employer has workers who will be exposed to extreme heat , OSHA recommends creating heat illness prevention programs. These programs are known to reduce the number of workers who become ill or die from heat exposure. The “Water. Rest. Shade” campaign encourages that all employers:
- Provide workers with water, rest and shade;
- Allow for new or recently returning employees to gradually increase workloads and take extra breaks to acclimate to hot working conditions;
- Monitor all workers for symptoms of heat-related illnesses, and:
- Create emergency plans and provide heat-illness and exposure prevention training
It is important that employers recognize what conditions can increase the chance of heat-related illnesses and deaths in workers. Some of these conditions include:
- High temperatures and humidity levels;
- Strenuous labor;
- No controls in place that reduce the amount of heat emitted by equipment;
- Wearing protective clothing/gear, and:
- Lack of air movement
Too often do workers get injured or die while on the job. And although employers are legally required to protect workers from foreseeable hazards, employers sometimes cut corners to save money on safety initiatives and maintaining compliant workplaces. Even though heat is a known hazard to workers, too many are killed or injured from exposure. In order to decrease these preventable tragedies, all employers should be required to implement heat illness prevention programs and increase their worker protection efforts.
Allentown Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Pursues Recoveries for Injured Workers
If you or a loved one was injured or killed on the job from a heat-related illness, please contact our Allentown Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.